ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Venue: Room 21, Parliament Buildings

The meeting commenced at 1.30pm in closed session.          

Chairperson’s Introduction

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the meeting should be held in closed session as the Committee would be considering a Report from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards on a complaint against a Member.

The Chairperson welcomed Committee Members to the meeting.  Members noted that Mr Francie Molloy would be replacing Mr Alex Maskey as a member of the Committee.  Members also noted that Mr David McIlveen would be joining the meeting from agenda item 6.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to host a reception for Dr Frawley in acknowledgement of his service to the Committee and the Assembly as interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards.

1. Apologies

As detailed above.

2. Declaration of Interests

The Chairperson reminded Members of their obligation to declare any relevant financial or other interests before and during each Committee meeting.

Members noted the registered interests of Mr Francie Molloy. 

Mr Agnew declared an interest in agenda item 8, application for an All-Party Group on Renewable Energy.

3. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 4th September 2012

Agreed:  The draft minutes of the meeting held on 4th September 2012 were agreed by the Committee.

4. Matters arising

There were no matters arising.

1.33pm Mr Boylan joined the meeting.

5. Consideration of a Report from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards on a complaint against a Member

Members noted the report received from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards on a complaint against a Member.

The Chairperson welcomed Dr Tom Frawley and Mrs Marie Anderson, and invited Dr Frawley to brief the Committee on his Report.

Following discussion the Committee thanked Dr Frawley and Ms Anderson for attending the meeting.

Agreed:  Members agreed with the interim Commissioner’s conclusion that the Member had not breached the Code of Conduct. 

Agreed:  Members discussed and agreed the draft Committee Report, as amended, and ordered that the report be printed today.

Agreed:  Members agreed that the Clerk should write to the complainant and the Member complained of informing them of the Committee’s decision and forwarding a copy of the Committee’s Report to them.

Agreed:  Members also agreed that the Clerk should write to the interim Commissioner informing him that the Committee concurred with his conclusion that the Member had not breached the Code of Conduct.

1.47pm Mr McIlveen joined the meeting.

6. Further consideration of two complaints against a Member

Members noted the Clerk’s Paper; correspondence from the Committee to the Member; and the Member’s response.

The Clerk updated the Committee on this issue.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Clerk should provide it with further information on sanctions that have been imposed on Members elsewhere.

2.25pm Colum Eastwood and David McIlveen left the meeting.

7. Commencement of functions and directions for the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards

Members noted –

the Clerk’s Paper;

the Commencement Order;

the previously agreed paper on Directions for the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards;

two previous Assembly Research Papers; and

previous Legal Advice.

Agreed:  Following discussion the Committee agreed that its position set out in the previously agreed paper on Directions for the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards remained the same.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed the timescale for the admissibility of complaints should be twelve months from the date when the complainant could reasonably have become aware of the conduct complained about.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to give further consideration to the issue of the Commissioner being able to accept complaints about former Members at a future meeting of the Committee.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Commissioner should not make public comment on whether a complaint has been received or an investigation is underway.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Commissioner should seek to make suitable arrangements for those complainants who are not able to submit their complaint in writing, for example due to disability or language difficulties.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the policy at section 4 (Investigations into admissible complaints), section 5 (Assessing the evidence), and section 6 (Reports on an Investigation) as set out in the paper on directions should also apply where appropriate to investigations that the Commissioner carries out as a result of either a self-initiation or a referral.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Commissioner should only agree to initiate an investigation where he has enough supporting evidence to establish a prima facie case that a breach of the Code of Conduct has occurred.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Commissioner should not make generic or speculative inquiries in relating to Members’ conduct for the purposes of enabling him to initiate an investigation.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the timescale for admissibility of complaints should also apply to investigations that the Commissioner initiates.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Commissioner should not make public comment on self-initiated investigations or investigations into referrals.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that the Commissioner should keep full and accurate records and that upon completion of an investigation he should provide the Assembly Commission with a copy of these records.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed that it was content to require the Commissioner to adhere to the draft Code of Conduct.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Clerk should draft directions based on what had been agreed and should seek advice from Legal Services before the Committee formally agree the directions at a future meeting.

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to review its directions to the Commissioner after six months, unless any particular issue emerges in the meantime.

2.40pm  Mr Fra McCann left the meeting.

8. Application for an All-Party Group on Renewable Energy

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to approve the application for an All-Party Group on Renewable Energy.

9. End of Session Report

Agreed:  The Committee agreed the Committee’s End of Session Report which will be placed on the Assembly website.

10. Any other business

Members noted correspondence dated 17th September 2012 from the Speaker on the Committee’s Report on the Unauthorised Disclosure of a Draft report of the Public Accounts Committee.

Members were reminded that Sir Christopher Kelly and members of the Committee on Standards in Public Life will be visiting the Assembly on 24th September 2012

11. Date, time and place of next meeting

Members will be informed of the date of the next meeting by Committee Office staff.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 2.56pm.

Mr Alastair Ross MLA
Chairperson, Committee on Standards and Privileges
Wednesday, 3rd October 2012. 

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